New Galileo quartet successfully launched

Four new Galileo satellites were successfully launched on December 12 from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. This launch brings the Galileo constellation to a total of 22 satellites.

Taking place on the 1st anniversary of the launch of Galileo Initial Services last December, and a week after the first Galileo User Assembly in Madrid, the successful launch marks the culmination of a milestone year for Galileo and the GSA. The four new satellites will reinforce the provision of Galileo Initial Services, with additional satellites to be launched over the coming years until the constellation reaches full operational capability in 2020.

GSA oversees LEOP

For the first time, the European GNSS Agency (GSA) is responsible for the Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP) of this mission, overseeing Spaceopal - a joint venture between Telespazio and DLR-GfR - in their new role as Galileo Service Operator and LEOP Mission Director, and CNES as responsible for LEOP operations and Operations Director.

The LEOP is one of the most important phases of a space mission as it launches the spacecraft, puts it into the correct orbit, and gradually switches on and tests the first satellite elements. For a quadruple Ariane 5 launch such as Galileo Launch 9, this phase will take about 14 days.

Speaking at the launch event, GSA Executive Director Carlo des Dorides said: “Today’s successful launch is another positive step forward for Galileo and the GSA. The fact that leaders from five of the world’s major chipset and receiver manufacturers attended the launch for the first time is testament to the growing industry support and confidence being placed in Galileo and a realisation of what it has to offer the market.”

The GSA-led Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP) Team working in Toulouse on 12 December

Successful teamwork

The LEOP activities were overseen by a team of specialists from the GSA, Spaceopal and the operations team of the French Space Agency (CNES). LEOP operations were conducted from a dedicated control room in the CNES Centre Spatial de Toulouse, from which the team is overseeing all of the main LEOP stages.

”Following a precise injection from Ariane, the early operations phase began as planned. The GSA team, working together with SpaceOpal, CNES, ESA, and its contractors, is responsible for this phase.  Operations will be controlled from Kourou for the next couple weeks, after which command and control will be handed over to the Galileo Control Centres,” explained Rodrigo Da Costa, Galileo Services Programme Manager at the GSA. “It’s great to work with such a competent team of specialists to bring the new satellites into the constellation and deliver services to users worldwide,” he said.

Galileo is Europe’s own global navigation satellite system, providing a highly accurate, guaranteed global positioning service under civilian control. Galileo is interoperable with GPS and Glonass, the US and Russian global satellite navigation systems. By offering dual frequencies as standard, Galileo is set to deliver real-time positioning accuracy down to the meter range.

To keep track of Galileo-enabled devices serving a variety of needs as they become available, check out: USE.GALILEO.EU

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Updated: Dec 13, 2017